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Mutual Fund Research/Misc

May 31st, 2006 at 03:33 pm

Spent a few hours on Fidelity.com last night looking at mutual funds for my pension $$ I should be receiving any day... (and then send off to Fidelity to join the other retirement stuff). It'll bump my retirement fund savings to $11k/$12k which isn't a lot, but better than nothing! I need to allocate a little better if I'm going to live through these big ups and downs in the market... maybe some bonds instead of NO bonds... I hadn't purcased any bonds before because I thought I was strong enough to stand the risk of all stocks... but watching my portfolio this last week has really made me think "BALANCE" - I need to balance my portfolio.

With the house money in a few weeks, I'll probably place it in Vanguard, in a nice index fund with low management fees and no 12b1 fees, but then I'd have a little at TIAA-CREF, Fidelity AND Vanguard which I don't think is too smart. The thing is that I love my Social Choice fund and the other growth fund at CREF and my retirement stuff was already at Fidelity, so I kept it there and I haven't opened anything at Vanguard, yet, but I love their index funds. Unfortunately, Fidelity charges $75 per transaction which makes me cringe. Oh, what to do, what to do. The cash that I'm not putting into the Roth will be around $10k and it'll go into ING until I get a handle on what to do with it.

I've probably already posted on my worries about this money, but it's something that is still hanging over my head... I don't want to screw up... since:
a) I'm not working
b) this is the last windfall I'll probably get in a loooonnnngggg time
c) I need a "girl's safety net" to feel comfortable
d) doubtful that I'll inherit any money
e) doubtful that I'll be making any significant money in the next couple of years since I'll be home with the little one



Back to the research.

Ah, and the credit card is back in the dungeon of our closet since I had started spending a little on it... $100 for summer shoes for DS and I which we needed, but I don't ever, ever want to have a credit card balance again. EVER! Which means cash, baby. Being in credit debt rebound is tough.

When should financial institutions be held accountable?

May 24th, 2006 at 09:10 pm

My SO got me a European charge card from his bank the other day so that we can use Euros for the coming year from his bank account over there. (This is the year we'll be making about half of our salary for education pursuits).

It got me thinking again about the book that had the 50%Needs, 30%Wants, 20%Savings strategy that I've been using for the last year. Pregnancy has affected my brain, so I can't remember the title, but it's a great book. Smile

Anyhow, the writer's talk about how in the 1950's a person COULDN'T really go over their credit line, and COULDN'T spend more than 25% of their income(or so) on their house and the banks WOULD NOT loan the money for a new car that they didn't think you could afford (using much stricter guidelines than they do now). Etc., etc., etc. Their point was that "fixed" expenses were much much lower than they are/can be today. Hence, many people are in straight jackets because of their fixed expenses.

Back to this charge card thing... SO tells me that I have a credit limit each month, but that the bank automatically takes the payment out monthly and pays the card off in full. He didn't have to sign up for this, they just don't have "credit cards" where he's from, they have "charge cards" like the American Express card that HAS TO BE PAID OFF and if you don't have the money, they revoke the card. That's it. End of story. Is this why Europe has a higher savings rate on the whole than we do? Which brings me to the question at the title of this entry, at what point should financial institutions be held accountable?

Isn't this a little hard on the individuals who borrow this money to be in such financial difficulties? How does it affect a person/family's quality of life if they're in debt up to their eyeballs? Yes, I know, people need to take responsibility for themselves at some point, but that would mean they'd need to be educated as well... kind of like those hazardous messages on cigarettes. If a person hasn't been taught, how are they to KNOW? It took me a long time to get out of debt. What would life have been like if I hadn't gotten into debt in the first place... ? Did it kill me to eat macaroni and cheese dinner 4 nights a week because my house payment and credit card bills took up almost all of my paycheck? Nooooo.... and it's my fault. I just wonder for the rest of our kids, our future, "what if?" What if companies were forced into more reasonable borrowing percentages? And what if credit card companies were required to have higher minimum percentages on the balances owed? The list is endless and this is long. I just got that charge card application in my hand and had to wonder how it is that we're going to compete with the rest of the world when we as a people have no savings.

J
P.S. Contrary 1 - couldn't figure out how to send a private email like the old set-up on the site. I'll keep looking. And baselle... I don't get the emails when comments are posted, but see above. I'll keep looking. Smile

Help?! Moving to Seattle - need info

May 23rd, 2006 at 11:33 pm

If anyone has recommendations for life in Seattle, we'd love to hear your comments. We're relocating and will be living just NE of downtown (not too far). Since everyone on this site tries to get the best bang for the buck, we're wondering who you use for:

-cable internet (faster than DSL)
-renter's insurance
-electric
-car insurance
-which brick and mortar sp? bank (low fees, no monthly fees, etc.)
-anything else?

We don't have cable and won't start when we move...and I think gas and garbage will be paid by the landlord. I've never been to the Northwest, so have no idea which companies to even start looking at. Someone from that area sent me an email from Comcast.net, so I'll start there for cable internet, but golly, there's a lot! AND.. it doesn't help that we're already going to be paying double in rent what we're paying for our mortgage. Life in the big city, I guess!

Thanks for reading!

SOLD! & Shoulder Bag - Dare to Spend?

April 5th, 2006 at 09:26 am

SOLD THE HOUSE!!! Yes! We sold the house! Okay, so the ink isn't dry, yet, and won't be until two months from now, but at least we've got an offer that's legally binding! Woooohoooooooo! Just a few more hoops to jump through: the inspection, the appraisal, and the buyer's financing. I guess all that spruce up work really helped, eh? The house was only on the market a couple of weeks, but I suppose it is that time of year. Ohhhh, what a relief.

So... onto the spending stage of this entry...

Since arriving in this city, I've been using a shoulder bag that is huge... it's actually DH's, but my purse doesn't have a long enough strap to place it crosswise on my body and DH's bag does. This city has an amazing amount of pickpockets and thieves (there are even signs posted in the Hertz rental agency to beware of professional pickpockets) and having a person's bag crosswise is helpful to deter... they could still cut it off you, of course, but why make it easy for them??
I've been in search of the perfect bag that has a long strap, is square-ish, has lots of pockets to put things, and is well sewn...
After looking in two different countries and countless windows and stores, I have found my bag. Having such good taste as I do (ahem) it is of course way out of my league... 100
Oi. Other bags I found that were less well-made, but still stylish were between 50 and 60. Bags that weren't very stylish but would get the job done were about 30, but they didn't have any little pockets or zippers to sort things...
Do I buy the bag? We'll see. I found it yesterday and may go back to the store today to check it out again. It's in this beautiful aqua blue and very very cool. My grandmother always said to buy quality when you buy bags, shoes, belts and coats and then you'll always be sure to get your money's worth. Hmmmm...

Spending Today

April 4th, 2006 at 02:27 pm

Fellin' good with a 50 note still in my pocket. I spent 10.30 on groceries yesterday and ate in for supper. Spent 1.20 for the bus last night and this morning... 2.10 for some rolls and a big bottle of water for lunch today.
Brittany asked if I used any software to track my spending and the answer is, "not really." I tried Quicken a few years ago and screwed it up so much that I didn't want to try again. I have used Excel to track my spending and find totals, but that turned out to be cumbersome as well. Today, I keep my networth and account information locked up in an Excel sheet that I tally up monthly or more on average and this seems to work well for me. I have my budgets for house and personal also within my Excel worksheets as well as my goals for the coming year and next five years. And... I keep a list of wants... so that when I feel the desire to spend more than $50, or am just feeling rich, I can take a look at my wants list and figure out what to spend it on... I think this helps to spend money on things I really desire instead of something I see in passing. It works the other way, too. When I see something I want and it costs a fair bit of change, I place it on the want list. It'll be there tomorrow or the next day if I really want it. There are so many places to buy things nowadays!!!
To track spending, I usually just use a pencil and a small notebook. The notebook also has rough guesstimates on what things cost in the grocery store so that I can compare before purchasing. I think this is a good habit.
Cash is also my friend. When I used the credit or debit cards more, I always spent a heck of a lot more money. When I take my cash out every week or two weeks, I know exactly how much I have left to spend. Works great!
There is a teacher I met here who wears their clothes at least 4 or 5 times before washing them. How very different from the US, eh? She's from the U.K. and just seems to feel more comfortable with not spending so much money on washing clothing... it doesn't get all that dirty during the day while teaching students and she changes clothes when she gets home to save the good stuff. What a fantastic way to live!
In the U.S., it seems that people are expected to not wear an outfit if they wore it the week before or something. Silly. Clothes are just clothes and I would assume that if you don't spend your money on clothes, you have a heck of a lot more in your savings account!!!! Ha!

Jorge

Cheap Weekend !

April 3rd, 2006 at 09:34 am

I've only budgeted 100 for this week and the weekend turned out to be quite affordable. 13 at the grocery store that included a housewarming gift. Spent 4.95 on tulips for another housewarming present. Other than that, though, I was fairly conservative in not spending anything.
Figured out the bus system on the way home yesterday so that this particular trip didn't cost me 2.40, but only .60. Yes!
There are always cheaper ways of doing things in general and when travelling... just depends on how much time a person has to devote to finding the cheapest method that gets the job done.
I have 90 and some change left until Sunday, a bus card that has 9 trips left and a bus card with 3 trips left. Will spend some money this weekend on transportation and admittance fees to some attractions, but I'm hoping to not spend more than 30 so that I will still have money in my pocket.
The $107 charge on the cc still hasn't gone through, yet, so I don't know what it is... hmmm... very curious, but I hope that I can clear it up before I leave this place on Sunday!
We got an offer on the house... they offered 5% less which is what I would have expected, but they wanted to close 15 days before we'll be ready to move out and wanted us to pay closing costs... we are going to counter today that we'll pay closing costs with a cap of $3k, but we want $4,500 more in the price of the house and a closing date more to our convenience... DS is still in school until the first week of June and moving the end of May would be too much of an interruption, I think. Moving is hard on people, best to try to make it as easy as possible!
Now I just need to start tracking down boxes when I get home. Smile

Till later,
Jorge

Expensive Travels

March 29th, 2006 at 01:33 pm

Hello Everyone,
Had to start tracking my spending in Europe after spending 100 the first week I was here on just food and admissions to museums. Ouch! I felt before I left that I had a pretty good grasp on where I spent my money, but watching that much money float through my fingers without a second thought was an eye opener for me. I had hoped to limit my spending to about 600 for four weeks not including room which was 350 plus a 60 deposit.
Huh. Doesn't look like that'll happen. Now that I'll hopefully have access to internet on a more regular basis, I think I'll just start keeping track on my journal again for what I spend...
It's a nice tool!
If I buy a punch card for the bus or metro, it works out to about .60 for each ride... otherwise, normal price is 1,20.
I've been trying to bring food for lunch and not eat out for breakfast other than grabbing a morning pastry on my way to the bus stop... I unfortunately ran out of clothes because it took 2 days for my clothes to line dry in the humidity and I'm 5 months pregnant with very few clothes to begin with (and I only brought carry-on luggage for 4 weeks). Hence, my spending $130 on a pair of maternity pants and a shirt. Oi!!!! That was painful. Then I started to get blisters on my feet from all of the walking (at least 5 miles each day) (how much more in shape am I compared to when I arrived?!) and purchased another pair of shoes. I had brought my Tevas for warm weather and a pair of comfortable clogs with me... the Tevas were too cold to wear even with socks when I first arrived (something I hadn't expected) and no one wants to wear sandals anyway when they're in a big city... too easy to step in something nasty on the cobblestones!
Well, my comfy clogs aren't so comfy after a few marathons around town (much to my dismay).
$90.00 for comfortable shoes.
Before these expenses, I thought it would be a nice treat to bring something little back for myself, so $35.00 perfume went on the VISA.
Rented a car over the weekend to travel to a city where it was necessary (no public transportation) and spent $81 shared 50% with a friend. I checked my credit card transactions online today, however, and see that there is an outstanding authorization for $107 that doesn't list a merchant, yet. Hmmm, wonder what the heck THAT could be. If it's an additional charge for the rental car, I'm going to have to waste time trying to clear up the charge. Hopefully it's just a reserve on my card like a deposit so that it'll clear itself up.
Spent .21 for a little round roll of bread today and .60 for the bus. Otherwise, I brought my food for lunch to eat with my roll and I brought my own water.
Will keep ya'll posted on how my savings in Europe progresses!

Besos,
Jorge

Budget for February

February 2nd, 2006 at 12:04 am

Went shopping today and spent my $50 for the week that I allocate to personal spending. Also cleaned out the piggy jar and instead of depositing it into ING like I was Supposed to, I spent it on a few things for the house. I guess I'm feeling rich with the money from my sale arriving soon and having no more student loan debt. Ah well. Cercis inspired me to go buy a box of henna, so that was how I spent the remainder of the morning. I always buy a box color called, "Sunset Glo" and like the red highlights/shine it gives my hair. Spent $3.49 on the box, though, which sounds expensive compared to Cercis brand!
Purchased some shampoo, body gel and conditioner from the organic food store. We have a nice one in town that offers cosmetic products along with groceries. They even have dog and cat food!
Anyhow, everything is biodegradable, no sodium laureth sulfate, etc., no animal by products and not tested on animals. My kind of stuff. And then, I prostituted myself to the gods of fashion and bought some Matrix sculpting mud. I've tried products that are from the cheap chains and they either give me an '80's look, or they clump, flake, or generally reduce my hair to ruin.
So, back to that budget stuff.
With the 40 must-haves/30 wants/20 savings plan, I haven't really felt the need to track spending, but I'm quitting my job the end of February and need to know where we're at without my salary.

$20 for emergency cell phone
$45 for DS's music lessons
$15 DS's allowance
$200 for my spending money
$150 to savings

And I suppose that almost does it for what I spend my money on outside of what I put into our household account. Our household budget reads more like this:

$80 for gas
$80 for electric/water/sewer
$600 mortgage
$100 "second mortgage"
$25 phone
$45/3 months for waste disposal
$400 groceries including dog food and paper items even though I don't buy a lot of them at the grocery store
$25 for landline
$50 account for car repairs
$75 account for house repairs

We're making good money right now, and our must-have's are at 40% with our combined salaries, so it won't be much of a hit, but I think I'm going to miss earning my own money.
I'm taking a month to go learn how to teach English to speakers of other languages and am really looking forward to the training and subsequent life changes. All is going well so far this year!